What is advocacy... What is an advocate?
There is a lot of confusion about what independent advocacy actually is and what an advocate actually does. For a lot of people an Advocate is someone who represents people when they are in court. In England this type of Advocate is often known as a barrister. When they appear in court they wear a wig and a gown just like the actors in courtroom dramas such as Silk or Rumpole of the Bailey. They also advise the people that they represent.
There are other type of advocates too. Not all advocates are legal advocates and not all advocates work in courtrooms. There are advocates who support people, adults and children in many different settings. These advocates are there to support people to have their views and wishes heard particularly when other people are making decisions about their lives with which they do not agree. This type of advocacy is called independent advocacy and these advocates are called independent advocates.
Independent advocates do not advise people. They may make sure that the person has access to relevant information so that the person (himself, herself) can make an informed choice.
Independent Advocacy and Independent Advocates
Independent advocates can support people in situations where they are unable to get their feelings and wishes heard for any reason. The people may have a disability, a learning difficulty, mental health issues or be in other circumstances that prevents them from having their wishes listened to. This can happen when people are dealing with the local council, the local GP, the National Health Service (NHS) or other organisations. In some circumstances the government has made it the law that people get the support of an independent advocate. This is called statutory advocacy.
The government has passed laws that make sure that people who need support to have their views and wishes heard get the support of an independent advocate as a right. UK governments have passed laws to make sure that people can have access to a statutory independent advocate by right such as:
- Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy
- Independent Mental Health Advocacy
- NHS Complaints Advocacy
- Care Act Advocacy
The types of statutory advocacy mentioned above apply in very specific circumstances as the names of the types of advocacy suggest. However, there are times when people still need to be able to have advocacy support that does not fall into the categories mentioned above. This type of independent advocacy is called non-statutory advocacy and can cover lots of different circumstances.
Local authorities make sure that statutory advocacy is available for people who are eligible. This will cover the types of statutory advocacy described above. Local authorities do not have to make sure that people have access to non-statutory advocacy. Some local authorities will fund advocacy organisations to deliver non-statutory advocacy and some do not. It will vary from place to place.